Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is the most populated city of the country, with 1.5 million inhabitants.
It is not only the coldest capital in the world, the average temperature in January in is around -40°C, but also one of the most polluted ones. These two facts are linked together, as inhabitants still use coal to warm their gers (typical Mongolian yurts) against the winter cold.
Due to harsh conditions in rural areas, many people have sought a better life and moved to cities. However, the newcomers often end up living in poverty on the borders of the city, in ger districts without proper infrastructure and basic services.
Since 2002, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Ulaanbaatar.
More and more people move to the capital in search of a better life, but around 800,000 people end up living in gers (Mongolian yurts) at the border of the city. That’s more than 25% of all Mongolian citizens. They have very limited access to resources and infrastructure. As the gers cannot be connected to the city’s heating system, they heat their gers with coal stoves. Furthermore, they have to collect water at public wells. Ger districts increase inequality in the capital: 60% of the people living in the gers are unemployed. Interestingly, Mongolians consider living in gers as part of their culture and are often reluctant to leave these living conditions. But children suffer from the lack of resources and the harsh conditions.
Temperature has increased 3 times faster since 1940 than the global average (by 2.25 °C). Mongolia, due to its ecosystems, is vulnerable to climate change risks, both in rural and urban areas. People burn coal to get through the harsh winters, making the capital one of the world’s most polluted cities. This burning affects emissions, which in turn foster harsh winters, and as such it becomes a vicious circle.
The nomads depend mainly on livestock, which is also highly affected by climate change. Climate change affects poverty, nutrition, education; and children are most vulnerable to these changes.